April 2009


. . . I was hired fresh out of Rare Book School to serve as the special collections librarian for this project. My role is to identify and describe the unique qualities of the rare books and archival materials in the collections that fall under the purview of this CLIR-funded initiative, and to teach the lucky few Goucher students the principles of bibliographical description. This is a conservative business, and we will be taking care to describe printed books and other rare materials according to the principles established by Sir Walter Greg, Fredson Bowers, Philip Gaskell, and the RBMS Bibliographic Standards Committee. My passion for this work was born in 1994 at the ruined library of the New York Law Institute, where I served my first post in the profession. Here on Broadway across from Trinity Church are the remains of the first law library of the United States – founded in 1828 and still open to subscribers – where I found first editions of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the open stacks, and many books once owned by Chief Justice John Jay. This is beginning to sound a bit too high-minded, and the purpose of this blog is threefold: to provide a forum for us to ask for help, as no one person can master the Principles; to share some of our darker or dorkier passions, be it crushed morocco or tree calf; and to make public some of our more interesting discoveries. For example, we discovered in the James Wilson Bright collection – the first to come under our purview – the only known copy of the “Cat paw Chaucer,” – so named after a cat’s paw prints tracked in brown ink across folios 68 and 69 of Professor Bright’s 1598 Tho. Speght edition of Chaucer’s works. More mysteries and excitements to come!

E. Kenneth Giese
Special Collections Librarian


Allison’s Dork moment #1: Tree Calf Binding

Though the photo is faint, I hope you can see what I’m excited about: the stain in the form of a tree on this leather binding.

Tree calf became popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It was made by running water down the binding so as to look like a tree trunk and branches, then alternately throwing ferrous sulfate and pearl ash onto it, which, when they react with one another in the water, form a dark gray stain.

In my opinion, it’s one of the most eccentric manifestations of the book, and I always get a thrill out of finding a tree calf binding.

See other examples online:
http://www.oldenglishbindery.com/images/tree.jpg
http://scholar.library.miami.edu/bound/graphics/img21mr.jpg

And I’m the cataloger for the Mapping Special Collections project. In my previous nine or so lives, I’ve worked in preservation, reference, access, and technical services units of various libraries.

Once upon a time, I thought that I wanted to be an art historian. But I kept taking all these darned library jobs! And you know what I found out? Books are incredible artifacts for studying cultural, intellectual and technical history.

And so I decided to work on describing and arranging special collections. It is my belief that the heart of effective library research is an extensive and organized catalog, which sheds light on the many facets of the objects in the collection and brings them together in meaningful ways.

My goal for the project is to provide increased access to the collections at Goucher, making them available to researchers from a variety of backgrounds and specialties.

Allison Jai O’Dell
Special Collections Cataloger

Goucher College Special Collections and Archives recently received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to catalog our hidden collections. The goal of the project is to expose our collections for use in teaching and research.

This blog will serve as a way to post our interesting finds, discuss difficult questions, and to share what we’ve learned working on the collections. Visit our website at http://www.goucher.edu/x32706.xml

I hope you stop by again!

Cassie Brand
Project Associate